NOVEMBER 29, 2019 – President Donald J. Trump highlighted the sacrifices and grit of U.S. service members fighting against extremism by visiting Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, for Thanksgiving.
The president also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the U.S. Air Force headquarters on the base. He then spoke to more than a thousand service members at a hangar on the flight line.
“We’ve had tremendous success against ISIS in the past three, four months, likewise with al-Qaida we’re down to a very small number,” Trump said during a short news conference after his meeting with Ghani. “If the Taliban wants to make a deal, we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do, they do; and if they don’t, they don’t.”
He said that U.S. officials are speaking with Taliban officials.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of Resolute Support Mission, accompanied the president to his meeting with Ghani.
The president asked Milley to discuss the operations against ISIS in Afghanistan. Milley said Afghan and coalition troops have made tremendous progress against ISIS in Nangarhar Province.
“They’ve been hurt bad,” Milley said. “Their numbers have been attrited and dwindled significantly. Organizationally, they have not been destroyed, but they have been severely hurt.
As the president mentioned, there have been ongoing talks with the Taliban, and hopefully those will be successful and hopefully, they will lead to Afghan-to-Afghan dialogue in the not too distant future.”
The president noted that a large number of ISIS fighters and their families have surrendered in the past month. The constant pressure by Afghan and coalition forces was key to that result.
President Ghani thanked Trump for his efforts on behalf of the Afghan people. He thanked American forces for their courage and determination. Ghani noted that more than 2,000 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 50,000 have been wounded.
Trump also addressed more than 1,000 service members at a base hangar. He told the troops they represent the best military in the world. He also praised the professionalism of the forces that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“American warriors hunted him down and executed in a masterful raid, and they punched his ticket to hell,” Trump said. He also said the American-led Defeat-ISIS coalition “defeated 100 percent of the ISIS Caliphate.”
The president said he is looking at plans to draw down the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He said that with new equipment and new tactics U.S. forces in the region actually can do more with fewer forces in the country.
The troops were surprised by the visit by the president. Trump followed traditional military protocol and joined MIlley and Miller in helping to serve the Thanksgiving feast to the troops at the Bagram dining facility.
He also sat and spoke with service members, and he had pictures taken with many of them.
“I could think of no place I would rather be on Thanksgiving, than with you,” Trump told service members at the dining facility.
BY JIM GARAMONE